JKMRC’s original international student honoured

7 Jul 2015

JKMRC’s first international student and third ever graduate Professor TC Rao, who is also known as the ‘father of Indian mineral processing’, has been honoured with the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science & Technology at the 2015 Australian Alumni Excellence Awards – India.

Born in September 1940, he received a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Geology from Andhra University, Waltair, India in 1959, and a M.Sc. in Ore Dressing from the same university in 1960. He then felt that Australia was the place to be to progress his career, and at the age of 20 was offered a research post at UQ, supervised by the late Professor Frank White, who also recruited Professor Alban Lynch to the department to start up an experimental mine and mineral processing department at the University. Later, with a donation from Mount Isa Mines, this department became the Julius Krutschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC), with Professor Alban Lynch as its first Director.

Prof. Rao obtained his Ph.D. degree in Mineral Engineering under the guidance of Professor Alban Lynch in 1965, working on the characteristics of hydrocyclone. His research into the then very new field of mathematical modeling and simulation of unit operations in mineral processing, in his case hydrocyclone, was one of the seminal studies in the field. The impact of his work can be gauged from the fact that 50 years later, the hydrocyclone model developed by Professor Rao is still the basis for cyclone modeling and in routine use within industry and research. There can be no finer acknowledgement of the impact of his original research.

He also helped with the teaching of mineral processing in the fledgling department, together with the late Rex Bull, who was senior lecturer at that time. In those early days he was inspired by Antoine Gaudin's 1939 Textbook of Mineral Dressing, and A.F. Taggart's 1945 Handbook of Mineral Dressing, as they "explained the theory of mineral processing in a simple way".

Prof. Rao stayed in Australia for eight years, working for a time at Broken Hill mine, before finally returning to India to take up a position as a Faculty member of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur for a further eight years, he then accepted the position of Professor and Head of Mineral Engineering at the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad in 1977. During his time at the Indian School of Mines he established a new four-year graduate programme (B.Tech) in Mineral Engineering, the only of its kind in India and was also Dean of Academic & Research at ISM. He invited many visiting lecturers from overseas to interact with staff and students and teach courses. He has headed this program for over a decade carrying out and guiding original research in the areas of coal and mineral processing and he has produced many graduates who are presently occupying high positions in India and abroad. He has contributed much to improving the processing efficiency of plants in the industry in India.                                                                                                   

During the past 50 years T.C Rao has carried out original research in mineral processing, which is being extensively quoted and used around the world nowadays. He has conceived and obtained grants from user agencies and has published around 225 research papers in International and National journals and his pioneering works on modelling of unit operations in coal and mineral processing that are still being extensively used by academic institutions and industries all over the world for process simulation and optimisation. He is the recipient of many awards/citations from various professional bodies and is a Fellow of many prestigious societies. In its early days he was Regional Editor of Minerals Engineering and he is, or has been, a member of the editorial boards of the International Journal of Mineral Processing, the International Journal of Coal Preparation, the Transactions of the Mining, Geological & Metallurgical Institute of India and of the Indian Institute of Metals. He is a Council Member of the Indian Institute of Metals and the Mining, Geological and Metallurgical Institute of India. He was a past President and presently a Patron Member of the Indian Institute of Mineral Engineering and was honoured as a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineers in Coal and Mineral Processing Specialization.

The persistence and patience have been qualities that have dominated T C Rao’s professional life; his approach to solving the tough assignments which have been presented to him during his professional career has led to many successes.

His work at the CSIR laboratory at Bhopal is particularly exemplary. In 1989 he became Director of this laboratory which was then losing its competence and initiative and was on the verge of closure, probably hastened by environment created by the dreadful industrial accident which had occurred five years previously.  He took up the challenge and during his 11 year tenure of the appointment he turned the laboratory around. Today it is one of the top ranking laboratories of CSIR, and in 1999 it was ranked 5th out of the 40 laboratories of CSIR and has achieved many laurels for its outstanding contributions.   

Pradip B K Mishra, Chairman of the International Mineral Processing Congress held in India in 2012 described TC Rao as ‘the father of Indian Mineral processing”. He formally retired in 2000, but is still actively involved with many industries and Research and Development Organisations as an advisor.